At least ten people are believed to be dead and multiple others are injured after a group of gunmen opened fire on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in the city of Karachi.
Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon said the four attackers pulled up in a car outside the building’s trading floor and threw a grenade before opening fire.
Four security guards, a police officer and a bystander were killed in the attack, according to local media.
All four gunmen were also killed by the police.
A separatist militant group from a neighbouring province, known as the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), have since claimed responsibility for the attack.
On a Twitter account, which was set up shortly before the attack, the group claimed responsibility for the shooting, describing the deadly attack as “self-sacrificing”.
The account was suspended a short time after the attack.
The group has been waging an urgency for years, demanding independence for Pakistan’s gas-rich southwestern Baluchistan province, which borders the southern Sindh province, where Karachi is the provincial capital.
The group also circulated to the media a photograph of four men in full body armour and camouflage outfits, saying they were the militants who attacked the stock exchange.
Rizwan Ahmend, a police official at the scene, said that after opening fire, the gunmen entered the high walled stock exchange grounds.
He said the food supplies were found on the bodies of the gunmen, indicating they may have planned a long siege.
“Police have recovered modern automatic weapons and explosive materials from the terrorists,” Karachi police said in a statement.
The building is a high security zone that also houses the head offices of many private banks.
“The situation is still unfolding and management, with the help of security forces, is managing the security and controlling the situation,” the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) said on Twitter.
Local television stations were broadcasting images of police in full body armour surrounding the building but still staying outside the high walled compound of the stock exchange.
Shazia Jehan, a police spokesman, says the bomb disposal squad was also called to the stock exchange and was trying to clear the building of explosive devises.
The BLA have been involved in a string of high-profile attacks across the country in recent years.
The group has targeted infrastructure projects along with Chinese workers in Pakistan multiple times, including during a brazen daylight attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi which killed four people in 2018.
In May last year, the BLA attacked a luxury hotel near the Afghan border at Gwadar, where a port development is the flagship project of a multi-billion dollar national infrastructure project funded by China.
Karachi was once a hotspot for crime and violence, with heavily armed groups tied to politicians frequently gunning down opponents and launching attacks on residential areas.
But the situation has largely stabilised in recent years following operations by security agencies against armed political outfits and Islamist militants.